We start with a recap of Darth Neville's seduction of young TJ Skywalker. I usually dig Graves' style, but tonight he's wearing this black & white plaid jacket that I just cannot get behind.
YES - Tozawa is out to kick it off, EXACTLY HOW IT SHOULD BE FOREVER. Review of lesson #2 from last week. He's facing off against the Premier Man Bun, Tony Nese. Tozawa has 1985 on his shorts. I'm assuming that's his birth year (quick wiki lookup says yes). Well, at least he doesn't throw it into the name of his finisher a la the Tyler Driver 97.
Typical offense to start. Nese hits his kneeling bodybuilder pose for what seems like forever. Aaaaaaand here comes the Man with the Plan & the hideous tiger striped tights. He's also got the spear & heart from his janky Blackbeard flag (but not the skeleton) on his jacket. Nese does a delayed one-arm vertical suplex w/ bicep flex (that I think owes itself mostly to Tozawa's ab strength & balance) and drapes Tozawa across the top rope with it. Tozawa comeback! TOPE SUICIDA CON CABEZA. That move is so sick. I really hope it's not as serial-concussion inducing as it kinda looks. Tozawa glares at Kendrink and does his battle cry in his face. Ending comes when Lil' Naitch (who always seems to ref this angle) catches Kendrick about to boot Tozawa in the face & stops it, Nese goes to yell at Kendrick, and Tozawa rolls up Nese with a nifty thing that ends in a sunset flip pinning combo for three. Hmmm - all these endings are very ref-involved which is probably why they put Lil' Naitch on this angle.
Tozawa looks at Kendrick & subtly shows him three fingers (for lesson #3). Kendrick looks chagrined & tries to apologize to Nese & blame it on Tozawa, but you don't get to be the premier athlete by being a sucker, and Nese attacks Kendrick while Tozawa laughs. Tozawa has the mic! Tozawa tells Kendrick lesson #3 (you need to have eyes in the back of your head) & battle cries at him. This is the best angle of all time. Phillips says he hopes we get 100 of these lessons from Tozawa & I have to say I concur.
Can I handle this? If it's a Rich Swann match, then yes. If it's more love triangle angle, then definitely not. Unfortunately, I think we're getting the latter as they recap last week's powder bomb drama. Dar comes out. Dar has "N7D forever" on his jacket. Wait, wrestlers have numbers? Is Noam somehow #7? Well, if Ty Dillinger can be #10 I suppose Noam Dar can be #7. Anyway, Noam jaws at Swann, blah blah, & Alicia Fox comes out. I'm kinda getting into Alicia's weird fashion sense, which is heavy on black outfits with roses in interesting places. Alicia informs Dar that she actually hasn't really been feeling him and that she hates the way he says Ah-LEEEESH-a FOOOOOOOOOOOOOKS. Crows switches their "what" chant to a "yes" chant for that one, and then quickly switches into "nah nah nah nah, hey hey, goodbye," which both Swann & Fox encourage. Alicia tells Dar to leave already. "Snap to it son!" I have to say I'm starting to see why all the men of 205 Live are into her. She's kinda killing this segment. Please please please let her turn on Swann also & leave them both lying in a pool of attitude.
Ughhhhhh - is not to be, it turns out this whole thing is a setup, and has been Swann going all bros-before-hos for his heartbroken buddy Cedric Alexander (and mentions Cedric is recovering from injury, which I did not know). Graves notes Alicia is now single & he might consider trying his luck. He's going to have to get behind me though, as I'm now fully in love with Alicia as she takes the mic and cuts a wicked heel promo on the crowd for "what"-ing her earlier. Hopefully this spells the end of this stupid angle, but the beginning of more Alicia Fox promos.
Next up is Mustafa Ali, who is being given the most generic of all generic babyface pushes. He has "WeR1" written on the inside of his wrist wrap. Ok. He's going up against Ariya Daivari, who looks like he's going for the staple "ostentatiously rich foreigner" gimmick. Wait, I though Jinder Mahal was taking that one for now?
Match is OK. Graves & Phillips keep trying to push Ali as Mr. Super High Flyer which, when you're on the same show as Neville, Rich Swann, Mascara Dorado (wait, where's Metalik been?) & Austin Aires, is kind of a tough sell. Daivari has a couple of nice moves - belly to back suplexy thing on the ring apron & has Ali's corner springboard tornado DDT scouted & turns it into a TASTY spinebuster. Ending comes when Ali goes up to for the please-name-this-already-inverted-450 & Gulak (with collar stays, bullhorn, and a "No Fly Zone" sign) distracts him which allows Daivari to hit the please-name-this-also-hammerlock clothesline for the W. Ali sells it way too early which makes the finisher look awful. I don't understand why Ali has a contract. His fundamentals aren't there, and he has doesn't have anything (good spots, mic skills, charisma, a halfway decent haircut) to really cover for it.
TJP is out, & is throwing a TON of 'tude into his entrance now. I'm starting to get sold on this heel turn. He's the main event against Aires, who is also, counterintuitively, somehow making this face run work. Aires has these really gross-looking sores on BOTH his upper thighs. I'm sure there's a perfectly reasonable explanation for this. Buuuuuut - if there isn't & you're on the juice, at least wear some longer trunks to hide the evidence maybe? Tope suicida sin cabeza. I'm sorry, that's Tozawa's now. Aires throwing that move is like Road Dogg doing a moonsault two matches after Keiji Mutoh (yes, Road Dogg did do moonsaults).
Oooof - they just showed a close up of Aires' backne, which is ILL and has completely ruined my appetite for the rest of the week. Aires should really invest in some body concealer makeup. TJP with a standing pin attempt w/ dab! (think Jericho's "come on baby!" but with dab instead of flex). TJP misses a standing senton with a half twist which Phillips informs us is a "standing tumbleweed." I did not know that. Who needs Mauro Ranallo?
Aires misses a 450, tweeks his knee, and TJP grabs the knee bar. Aires makes it to the rope, but now the knee's the story. Aires misses the roaring elbow, and TJP does a weird double-chickenwing takedown that I can't tell if is a botch or meant to try and sell the knee story more. Phillips implies botch. Cover for your wrestlers Phillips! Where's Mauro Ranallo when you need him?
Aires hits the 450, but TJP gets a leg on the ropes, so Aires drags him to the middle and tries again. TJP kicks out, so Aires grabs the last chancery but his leg's too weak to keep TJP from dragging himself to the ropes! Some fighting on the outside, detonation kick gets countered into the ear clap, and Aires hits the roaring elbow for the W.
Well that turned into a pretty cool match. We're not done though - Neville is out & charges the ring. Aires does pretty good until TJP gets involved too, and the beatdown begins. Aires has a little hardway blood even. Detonation Kick! Rings of Saturn! And that's our show folks.
I'm not sure what to make of this format. It's very throwback. A few simple angles advanced every week (usually in the same spot on the show) with a couple nice little matches and a solidly good main event. It works for now, but I can also see myself getting bored of it very quickly (except for the opening Tozawa/Kendrick segment. I will get bored of sex before I get bored of that). Hopefully all love triangle angles are over and they can add something else to the mix now. Maybe Swann can be Gulak's "high-flying" foil, which would be a vast improvement on Ali.
WWE leads cable in AAMen 18-49, which is one of the (if not the) coveted demo slots on television. If that erodes, worry. UPN is a higher "weblet" than the WB thanks in part to SD!, so I don't see that going anywhere, either.